Cape Town - Constantia businessman Rob Packham pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
Dressed in a suit and tie, Packham scanned the public gallery before taking his place in the dock on the first day of his trial.
The 57-year-old Packham is accused of murder and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly killing his wife Gill Packham in February last year.
On the day she went missing, February 22, she did not arrive for work at Springfield Convent School at the usual time of 7.30am. Her body was later found in the boot of a burnt out BMW near Diep River train station.
The State alleges that her husband used a blunt object to hit her on the head and, with the alleged intention of obstructing the course of justice, set her BMW on fire while her body was in it.
The first witness to take the stand, Bernice Moore, who was Gill Packham's colleague at Springfield Convent where they both worked as secretaries, told the court that she was worried about her when she didn't show up.
She contacted her on a group whatsapp, but received no response. At 7.40am she called her, ten minutes later she tried again when the bell rang for the school day to begin.
"It was very peculiar. Both her cellphone and home phone, there was no answer. We then at 8.15am reported this to management."
The school sent someone to her residence, but there was nobody home and the alarm light showed it had been activated.
Moore said calls to Rob Packham's cellphone went unanswered and so she called him at his company, Twizza, just after 9am. She was told he wasn't in yet.
"There were times it went straight to voicemail and times when it rang and rang. I called him seven times."
Moore told the court she finally manged to get hold of Packham's daughter, Nicola, who lives in Johannesburg and said she would try and get hold of her parents, but never came back to her.
"I phoned the deceased several times and her phone was off."
Just after 10.30am, she managed to get through to the accused, who told her he was on the school premises. She said Packham said he wanted to see who he was speaking to, and she got a "bad feeling when he said that".
"That scared me."
Moore said they met and discussed possible locations his wife could be. Packham, she said, looked frazzled and didn't want her to call management.
Defence lawyer Craig Webster said there had been nothing "peculiar" about him looking for his wife.
He confirmed that Packham had been wearing dark trousers and a white shirt with his company's name Twizza on it.
Judge Elizabeth Steyn adjourned proceedings to the afternoon when Packham's daughter is expected to take the stand.
African News Agency (ANA)